I was wrong. It happens sometimes. Well actually, it happens a lot in my writing, but luckily I’m discovering how to right those wrongs. I’m learning.
One of the things we’re supposed to do in writing is to vary sentence length. I thought I was doing so, but I was wrong. I’ve gotten several comments from agents and others about my short, choppy sentences, much to my surprise, so I decided to take a look.
First, I looked to two authors/books I really admire. Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols and JH Trumble’s Don’t Let Me Go. I did my super scientific analysis of multiple pages, by counting the number of sentences that were approximately one line in length and the sentences that were less than ½ a line in length. Then I counted several pages in The Proper Way to Say Goodbye.
Imagine my surprise ( 😉 ) when I found that, huh—I had way more short sentences than them.
1 line sentences per page: Range of 6 to 12, with average of 8.
½ line sentences per page: Range of 2 to 6, with average of 3.
Approximately 1/3 of the lines being ‘short.’
1 line sentences per page: Range of 7 to 17, with average of 12.
½ line sentences per page: Range of 4 to 11, with average of 8.
Approximately 2/3 of the lines being ‘short.’
My next analysis was made by Word and their neat feature which counts average words per sentence. According to many sources on the web, here are the general guidelines.
Average words per sentence
< 14 is too many short sentences
14 to 22 is where you want to be
> 22 is getting too wordy
Guess, where I came in? Bet you won’t.
Eight. Yes, 8. And < 14 is supposedly too short. Now, I understand some of that is dialogue, which I consider different than narrative, but even so, it's too short.
Varying sentence length is important because when too many sentences are short, the writing might be choppy and ideas may be hard to follow. Too many long sentences might mean there's too much detail, also making it hard to follow.
So I guess I'm going to be doing some revisions.
How about you, have you ever analyzed your sentence lengths?
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